From Dusk Till Dawn

I’ve just finished watching From Dusk Till Dawn, the TV series, on Netflix. I was a great fan of the original film (but not the sequel/prequel), so I couldn’t help but check out the series. However, I had severe misgivings, only tempered by the fact that Robert Rodriguez, the director of the film (and so many other wonderful things) had a directing credit on the series.

I have to say that I enjoyed it sufficiently to watch all 10 episodes. However, my misgivings were largely justified.

Big spoilers for both film and series follow.

From memory, the film is just over 100 minutes long, and is in two parts. For the first hour or so, the film is a fairly conventional heist/getaway/hostage movie, but with lots of snappy dialog, and particularly good acting from George Clooney and Juliet Lewis. Then it turns into a vampire picture, and the last half hour is basically blood, gore and run, run, run, with the robbers and hostages bonding to stay alive – or, at least, not undead.

I don’t think anyone will ever consider FDTD to be a great movie, in terms of art, but it is a fun ride, especially with the genre-bending.

So imagine this turned into 10 x 45 minute episodes. They use this as an opportunity to provide a lot more information – partly by starting the story earlier, but also in the form of flashback – on who the characters are, and how they are what they are. The problem with this is that it just slows everything down so much. This is less important in the road-trip part of the story; but once in the vampire’s temple, it completely loses the “oh my god, we are all going to die” factor. At one point, the monsters retire from the carnage to lay on a (human flesh) meal for the higher-ups, conveniently leaving our leading characters alive and alone and able to gear up for the next bout of fighting. Add to this flashbacks in the middle of the action, and it just loses the flow.

The other problem was the extended time allowed too much time for reflection on the gotcha moments. It has to be said that the bank-robber Gecko brothers really are a nasty piece of work – more so here than in the film, and yet in the end we are supposed to be rooting for them. In a 100 minute movie, this is achievable, as you can get carried along with the thing; but in a 10 episode series, you find yourself thinking “just a minute….”

Having said all this, the Gecko brothers were the highlight of the show – D.J. Cotrona successfully channelling George Clooney as the sane one, and Zane Holtz excellent as the crazy one – a million times better than Quentin Tarantino in the same role (although that sounds like damning with faint praise – he really was very good). Robert Patrick was largely wasted as the “I’ve lost my faith” pastor – the role was much more nuanced and better acted by Harvey Keitel; and Madison Davenport as the pastor’s daughter lacked all the good girl/bad girl vibe that Juliet Lewis had – thus when Lewis takes off with Clooney at the end, it is believable, but for Davenport it isn’t.

In the end, it was a bit of fun, and fairly well made. I just couldn’t help thinking, while watching it – “Why did they have to remake this? Why couldn’t they spend all this excellent effort on something original?”

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